Smartphone business challenges and trends.

Mobile/smartphones have come a long way in the business world since the early days when they primarily served as mini email devices. Expanded functionality and usage mean new opportunities for efficiencies, but also new challenges. Mary Schaeffer of AP Now writes about one headache below, while I explore some mobile trends. With increased awareness, your organization can determine what, if any, steps it should take to harness the benefits of smartphones while guarding against the risks.    

Smartphones, Receipts and a New Expense Report Auditing Headache

by Mary S. Schaeffer, AP Now

Most employees have smartphones, taking them wherever they go. The phones are especially handy for travelers, who can snap pictures of their meal receipts for their expense reports. It’s a lot easier and cleaner than keeping all those little pieces of paper together. However, all is not rosy in receipt land.

The New Issue

Some employees are submitting the same electronic receipt for the same meal on multiple expense reports. Whether this is being done inadvertently or the employee is actively trying to defraud the employer of a few dollars is a separate issue and one that is difficult to pinpoint definitively. However, from an expense report audit standpoint, it is critical that these duplicate submissions be weeded out and not paid a second time.

Smartphones can play a role in reducing office paperwork, but organizations also need to implement related controls and policies.

Smartphones can play a role in reducing office paperwork, but organizations also need to implement related controls and policies.

The Solution

Insist on employees using a company credit card to prevent them from playing certain games with their expense reports. For those who don’t go this route, using automated expense reporting software will address the problem. When combined with a company card, the information can be automatically loaded into the expense report. Then the employee doesn’t have the opportunity to submit the expense twice.

Organizations who do not use automated software have two primary lines of defense for uncovering duplicates:

  1. The traveling employee’s manager who approves the expense report. Although it is incumbent on them to check everything first, it is a well-known fact that only a few actually check the expense report before approving it. Making managers responsible for what they sign is a good first step.
  2. The group who audits expense reports. For starters, anything that is submitted more than a month or two after the meal should be double checked to ensure it wasn’t included on a prior report. Best-practice companies use data analytics to identify potential duplicate payments of all types, not just those on expense reports.

Concluding Thoughts

Technology is wonderful. It certainly makes many tasks in the business world a lot easier. Expense reporting is no exception. The sneaky thing about technology is that it also introduces problems we didn’t have in the past. This is one such example. By identifying the problem early on, you can create solutions to make sure extra dollars don’t drift out the door on your watch.

2015 Smartphone Studies and News

by Lynn Larson, CPCP

We know mobile payments have entered the Commercial Card world (e.g., American Express and Apple Pay), but this year’s mobile news is even broader. Following are tidbits on four other topics. 

Business Travel

Intriguing 2015 research by Business Travel News (BTN) reveals business travelers have embraced mobile technology, but organizations are slow to respond in terms of mobile policies and understanding what travelers use and want. For example, mobile policies, when they exist, tend to be created in reaction to a certain situation, problem, etc. They often fail to address many aspects of mobile usage, including expense filing, roaming charges and social itinerary sharing. If you are a travel manager, this research is a must-read.


Mobile policies are not limited to travel management. They should include a stance on BYOD (bring your own device); specifically, whether employees should use their personal devices for work functions. The debate becomes more heated if the work entails accessing sensitive data or financial records. A 2015 study by CompTIA, Building Digital Organizations, found that 53% of respondents’ organizations allowed no BYOD, compared to 34% in 2013. Security could be one factor. For various considerations, see ComputerWorld’s article on other findings from the study

Data Breaches

With ongoing news about data breaches, it is natural to wonder if there is a mobile path. Per the Verizon 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, mobile devices are not a preferred vector in data breaches. However, the report also notes mobile devices have clearly demonstrated their ability to be vulnerable. Download the report to learn more about data breaches overall. 

Regulatory Involvement

The U.S. Congress is taking an interest. Earlier this month, the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing to explore mobile payments security and data privacy. Industry experts described security features (e.g., tokenization and biometrics), as well as challenges like having multiple parties involved in the payments process. A key question is whether specific regulatory oversight is needed, such as laws covering mobile payments fraud protection. An article by BankInfoSecurity provides more insight into the hearing.

Final Thoughts

Mobile usage for business purposes will continue to evolve. How can your organization take greater advantage of the benefits? If/when you do so, be thoughtful about your policies to ensure they keep pace.



About the Authors

Mary S. Schaeffer, a nationally-recognized accounts payable consultant, is the creator of the AP Now website. She speaks regularly at live and online events; has written 18 business books, most focused on accounts payable issues; and has created many CPE courses for CPAs. Additional information can be found at

Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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